Horizon - Should I eat meat?
Despite knowing that the answer was always going to be - 'in moderation' - I decided to watch the Horizon programme, Should I eat meat?, last night on BBC. I am not a massive red meat eater, probably only consuming it once or maybe twice maximum a week. I tend to stick to white meat and fish, mostly because of taste. However, on hearing they were also going to be discussing the dangers of processed meats, such as bacon and ham, I thought it would be an interesting watch. I eat bacon as a treat once a month or so, but we tend to have ham daily in the house. It had never occurred to me that this could be an issue. I wanted to learn why.
The experiment undertaken required Dr Michael Mosley to eat a double portion of meat a day- about 120g. Long story short, after a month his blood pressure had risen considerably from about 118/69 to 140/80, leaving him in the lower end of the high blood pressure group. His LDL cholesterol levels had also risen, despite his faeces showing no sign of damage to his body. (They suggested this had been because of the fibre he had been eating which counteracted the high meat content.) Overall they seemed to conclude that a high red meat diet is a problem.
What I want to know
However, my question refers to what else is on the plate with the piece of meat. A lot of the time when we think of having a steak, we think of combining it with chips. If we are to have a beef burger, there is a large chance it will come with a nice helping of chips and onion rings. If we eat bacon, will it just be a small part of a nice full English breakfast? Is it really the meat doing the harm to us or what we are putting with the meat?
They did look at a small, supposedly healthy population – 7 day eventists, where half seem to be meat eaters and the other half vegetarian. They showed that the meat eaters were 20% more likely to die prematurely from heart failure. Assuming they do not combine their meat with onion rings, this would suggest it is the meat that causes health problems not the other things on the plate. However, they were very unclear on what a 20% increase actually meant. If there is only a 0.1% chance that a 7 day eventist will die early, then by eating meat and raising this by 20% it isn't really significant. On the other hand if there is a 20% chance they will die early then clearly this is a considerable increase. Also, the premature death was referring to deaths from heart problems. How do we know that the vegetarians weren’t 20% more likely to die early from some sort of deficiency due to lack of meat?
Overall I think the programme tried to deal with too many issues and didn’t go into enough depth. My question to you is considering their conclusions, that meat, especially processed meat will kill you early, will you be decreasing the amount of red meat you eat. Or at the end of the day is it worth it for that big juicy steak?